The law on fireworks
Up to 2006 the law on fireworks in Ireland was unclear. While serious accidents have resulted from using fireworks, the law only covered the importation of fireworks into Ireland without a licence. This was more a customs and excise issue rather than a criminal issue.
Part 6 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 amended the Explosives Act 1875 to give the Gardaí the power to make arrests in relation to possession of unlicensed fireworks.
What does firework mean under the law?
The law gives a very technical definition of a firework. A firework includes all those devices which burn and explode to give a loud noise and a visual effect – basically a typical, traditional firework. Bangers are now defined as fireworks.
Since 4 April 2010, under European Communities (Placing on the Market of Pyrotechnic Articles) Regulations 2010 (SI 1/2010) low hazard fireworks are included as category 1 fireworks. These low hazard fireworks are designed for indoor use and include items such as party-poppers, certain sparklers, Christmas crackers and strips of bangers or caps for toy guns. While categry 1 fireworks are available for sale to and use by the general public, it is an offence to sell category 1 fireworks to anyone under 16 years of age.
What are the offences for having a firework?
Under the amended legislation the following are offences:
- If you ignite a firework or cause it to be ignited in any place, you are guilty of an offence. The offence of igniting a firework can take place anywhere and not just in a public place. It can include the garden of a private house.
- If you throw, direct or propel an ignited firework at or towards someone else or at property, you are guilty of an offence.
- If you have a firework with the intention of selling or supplying it to someone else (and you don't hold a licence to import it) you are guilty of an offence.
If you are found guilty of any of the above offences you are liable:
- On summary conviction (in the District Court) to a class C fine or to imprisonment for up to 6 months or to both.
- On conviction on indictment (in the Circuit Court) to a maximum fine of €10,000 or to imprisonment for up to 5 years or to both.
The offences mentioned above are arrestable offences because they carry a possible 5 year jail sentence. Therefore the Gardaí have the power to arrest you without warrant if they reasonably suspect you of having committed such an offence. They can also detain you in a Garda station for questioning for up to 12 hours before you are charged with the offence or released.
What can the Gardaí do when investigating these offences?
The Gardaí have been given wide powers in relation to the investigation of these offences. If the Gardaí reasonably suspect you of possessing fireworks for sale or supply without a licence they may:
- Request your name and address
- Request you to go to the Garda station for the purpose of verifying your name and address (if they are not satisfied your details are correct)
- Search you without a warrant and detain you for such time as is necessary for the search
- Enter and search any vehicle, vessel or aircraft without a warrant, if they suspect that a firework may be found there
- Seize and detain anything found in the course of the search, which is connected with fireworks
If the Gardaí suspect that an offence of sale or supply of fireworks without a licence has been committed by you, they may arrest you without a warrant.
The Gardaí have also been given the power to apply to the District Court for a search warrant which allows them to search a premises at any time (or times) within one week from the date of issue of the warrant. The warrant allows the Gardaí to enter a premises, by force if necessary, and it also allows them to seize anything found in the search. The Gardaí are allowed to demand the name and address of anyone who is present at the premises when they are searching it.
Anybody who obstructs the Gardaí during the search under the warrant may be arrested. If found guilty in court, you may be liable on summary conviction to a class C fine or to imprisonment for up to 6 months, or to both.
Can I organise a fireworks display at a special event such as a party?
Yes, but the fireworks must be licensed for import and only if a professional fireworks operator is used. If you want to import fireworks into Ireland you must apply for a licence or get a professional fireworks operator to apply, on your behalf, to the Department of Justice and Equality. Application forms are available (Word) from the Department and can be downloaded from the Department's website. The application must be made at least one month before the proposed event. The licence is free.
Details which you must provide when applying include the following:
- Your name and address as the applicant
- The name and address of the organiser of the fireworks display
- The name and address of the operator of the display
- The name and address of the safety officer for the display
- The date, location and reason for the display
Furthermore you must confirm to the Department:
- That you have read and are aware of the contents of the Guidance Document on Organised Pyrotechnic Displays (pdf). This document is available fromthe Department.
- That all operators used in the display are competent, in accordance with the guidance document.
- That adequate public liability insurance is in place.
- That you have consulted the local authority Fire Officer.
- That you have consulted the local Gardaí.
- That you have consulted with all other relevant interested parties, for example, your neighbours.
If granted, the licence allows you to import the fireworks and operate and display them in accordance with the terms set out in the licence.
It is important to note that anyone who operates a fireworks display (even a small one in your own garden), without the appropriate licence is committing an offence which carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment.
How to apply
In order to apply for a licence to import fireworks, you must complete an application form, or get a professional fireworks operators to complete one on your behalf, and forward this form directly to Department of Justice and Equality. Further information on fireworks is available on the Department's website.
Queries in connection with fireworks should be addressed to your local Garda station or to the Department.